If You Suspect Someone of Being A Phony POW
Phony POWs? What is this all about? Believe it or not, there are individuals out there who claim to have been prisoners of war in Vietnam who were not. Phony POWs. And, they show up all over the place. When I was in the POW-MIA office, we would receive telephone calls from family members, representatives of veterans' groups, reporters, and other people asking for details on the exploits of a former POW. Often, they needed this information because the man was about to be honored by some group. One of my favorites was a guy in Connecticutt for whom the town was about to erect a monument -- a local reporter contacted us to confirm the guy's story -- he was a phony.
I receive a lot of e-mail messages from people who want to know if an individual is a phony POW. Normally, the person sending the e-mail has checked one of the carious databases available and has not located the name of the person making the claim. I recommend a cautious approach. There may have been an omission in the database used, there may have been a mix-up in the spelling of a name, or something else may have caused a problem. And, some folks -- especially phonies -- may not like being exposed and could become violent. This article provides some suggestions as to how to proceed if you suspect a phony.
First, get a copy of the official POW-MIA list
The Defense Prisoner of War and Missing Personnel Office (DPMO), maintains the official
list of Americans and selected foreign nationals who were at one time or still are
unaccounted for from the Vietnam War. Go to the DPMO web site and you can download
the current list. It is available in Adobe Acrobat .pdf format and takes several
minutes to download.
This link takes you to the official list of POW's. This list includes every American who was missing or captured during the Vietnam War, including those who were captured and released, captured and escaped, whose remains have been returned, and who remain missing. This is the official list: http://www.dtic.mil/dpmo/pmsea/pmsea_all_p_name.pdf
Second, contact the experts
The Defense POW and Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) web page
is at: http://www.dtic.mil/dpmo/
DPMO will respond with a letter confirming or denying that the individual in question is/is not a POW. This letter is important because it provides you with official confirmation that the individual is a phony.
Contact the real POWs
Go to this website: http://www.nampows.org/ This is the home page of the NAM-POW's -- these men are all genuine returned POW's from Vietnam -- they take a dim view of phonies who claim to have been POW's.
On their website you will find several e-mail addresses -- look for the address for Captain John "Mike" McGrath, USN (Ret) : <firstname.lastname@example.org>. Mike is the past President of NAM-POWs and now serves as their historian. He was a POW for 5 years and 9 months.
Send an e-mail to Mike and ask him if the person you have encountered is a real POW. Mike will reply quickly.
If you try to expose the phony, be diplomatic
Let's assume now that you have a copy of the DPMO list, a letter from DPMO, and a message from the NAM-POW's. If you want to confront the individual, that's your choice. If the individual is making his claims to an organization -- for example, a local veteran's group chapter -- you would be wise to bring his false claims to the attention of the chapter officers and let them deal with it. Either way, the following is a suggested process and suggested wording.
Say or write something like this
The Defense Prisoner of War and Missing Personnel
Office (DPMO), maintains
the official list of Americans and selected foreign nationals who were at one
time or still are unaccounted for from the Vietnam War. The name ________ is
not on the official list.
If you find a phony in a newspaper, magazine, TV, or radio article
If you see a newspaper or magazine article -- see an item on TV -- or hear a radio report about a person claiming to be a returned POW from Vietnam, and if something just doesn't sound right -- first -- get the facts. What is his name? What is he claiming?
Then -- check him out. Check out his name on the DPMO list. If you wish, contact DPMO by letter and wait until you get a response from them.
After you have your facts together, contact the reporter who wrote the article -- contact the reporter by e-mail so you have a record of what you said and CC: the reporter's managing editor.
The Schantag's and their list of phonies
Chuck and Mary Schantag maintain a website with a big section dedicated to exposing phonies. Here is a link to their "Phonies and Wannabes" section:
Note that the section is divided into two section: (1) Phony POW's, and, (2) Phonies with other claims (SEALS, Special Forces, Medal of Honor, etc.). Also note that the section is divided alphabetically -- check here to see if the person you have encountered has already been exposed as a phony.
The Schantag's do a good job of checking up on reported phonies -- they use
the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to obtain individual's military records
and use those records to confirm/deny claims of POW status.
If all else fails send me an e-mail -- I'll do what I can to help you expose the phonies.